Tuesday, February 22, 2011

LGBT Protections Debated at the Capitol

Two bills were heard in the House Judiciary Committee last Friday related to protections of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Montanans. More than 50 people turned out - from locations across the state - to testify in favor of House Bill 514 and in opposition to House Bill 516.

HB 514 would add protection of LGBT Montanans to the Montana Human Rights Act and HB 516 would limit local ordinances to protect classes of people in Montana from discrimination - including those who are LBGT - specifically repealing the non-discrimination ordinance passed in Missoula last spring.

Committee chairman Rep. Ken Peterson (R-Billings) limited the testimony on the bills to 10 minutes each for proponents and opponents. After testimony was closed by Rep. Peterson, supporters of LGBT protection moved to the Jeanette Rankin statue and presented the testimony they wanted to give to the committee. Sen. Carol Williams (D-Missoula) and Sen. Shannon Augare (D-Browning) joined the group to voice their support of protection of LGBT Montanans.

It was quite disheartening to hear the hate coming from those opposing LGBT protections, including Hamilton pastor Harris Himes, who stated that he wanted to have the right to refuse to rent to an LGBT Montanan for "religious reasons." When questioned by Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) about these reasons, Rev. Himes stated that God's punishment for being gay is that a person shall, "surely be put to death."

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